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Blood and Vomit

I woke to a violently vomiting dog and a fiercely bleeding nose.  Good Morning!

After all the messes were dealt with and cleaned up, all I really wanted to do was crawl back into bed and start over.  Surely, another try at this waking up thing couldn’t be as bad as the first time.

But what if it was?  What if the next time I woke up, another little piece of my life became messy or broken or fell apart completely?

Would this still be “the day that the Lord has made”?  Should I still “rejoice and be glad in it”?

Chances are, my first response wouldn’t include those two phrases. Frustration with my situation would likely trump a thankful, “glad” heart.  A bad attitude would be crouching at the door just waiting to pounce on my mind.  To have its way with my soul. Everything in me would probably lean toward wallowing in self-pity.

But with a huge wad of toilet paper up my nose, I decided to look once again at the verse that reminded me that THIS day was ordained – Psalm 118:24 - This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

It’s not just a phrase.  It’s a declaration!  THIS is the day that the LORD has made; LET US rejoice and be glad in it.  A cause and effect kind of thing – BECAUSE this is the day that the Lord has made, WE WILL rejoice and be glad in it.

But I wanted to know more.  I wanted to understand the context around this verse.  What else did David say when he wrote this?

Psalm 118 -

 Give thanks to the LORDfor he is good; his love endures forever.  Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”  Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.” Let those who fear the LORD say: “His love endures forever.”  In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answeredby setting me free

 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?  The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. 

 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.  They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off. They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off.  I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. 

 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.  Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!  The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!” 

I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.  The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death. Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. 

 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 

 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

  O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.  The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

I highlighted everything that tells who God is and what He does.  The REASONS we are able to recognize that THIS is the day that the Lord has made and that we CAN rejoice and be glad in it.  That verse comes after David recites all that God has been to him and done for him and his nation.  And it’s all neatly summed up in the last phrase of the chapter – “…he is good; his love endures forever.”  Our only response to such great goodness can only be thankfulness.

THAT’S why I can rejoice and be glad for this day.  Because He is GOOD and HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER.  It is the backdrop and setting for anything that comes my way.  It is the truth that gives perspective to whatever I wake up to on any given day.  It isn’t changed by circumstances or shifts in my world.

Not even dog vomit or bloody noses.

This IS the day.  I WILL rejoice!

 

 

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Fireplace Heart

(Her most recent blog post for those of you who are praying for our daughter Janay in Cambodia.  A little glimpse into her heart and what God is doing in her these days in a place that so desperately needs Jesus’ love.  Oh, how I love this precious girl!!!! :-) Thank you for your prayers… )

A Fireplace Heart

Here’s the deal. In the recent past, I had a very good and sacrificial friend rummage through my hair for signs of lice. This happened after a cute little girl out in Svay Pak kinda sorta rubbed her head all over mine during a piggy back ride (might I add, I gave her a piggy back ride in wedges on an unpaved road, like a BOSS). Turns out she had lice. But the good Lord blessed me by gifting me with a lice free head. He knows to what degree I would complain about having to comb my mane with one of those teeny tiny torturous devices that get rid of those even worse eggs. I’m sure it was more for the benefit of everyone else. Either way, thank you Jesus!

Literally, right before I started writing this, a tiny black bug crawled from my bed onto my computer, which freaked me out. Needless to say, the bed was stripped and sheets thrown violently into the washer. I Raided the crap out of my room (you know the bug killer spray) and am now sleeping in my roommate’s bed since she in in the province and I am pretty sure my entire room is toxic at this point with the amount of chemicals floating around. Crossing my fingers and saying prayers that it was not a bed bug.
Speaking of Raid, it turns out that it is my new best friend. There is this small walkway on the side of my building that I have to walk through to get to my apartment. I think that it is the cool place to hang out for all the cockroaches, because they are always there. Dear Arizonans, if you know me but at all, you know my disdain for anything that could be considered an insect, especially cockroaches. Well, they are worse here. And by worse I mean, THEY FLY. Also, I am pretty sure that they enjoy the fear they instill in me when I attempt to walk by them unnoticed. Large flying stalker things.
Exposure therapy has been something that is an everyday occurrence, at least in the creepy crawler department. I feel inclined to say that this form of therapy isn’t working for me. I’m probably more scared than ever of bugs. So there’s that.
Anyway, today I had a day of just wanting to go home, partially due to the bugs. It’s so cool how Jesus totally knows what we need and uses others to help meet those needs.  Example: my friend Matt from back home texted me and asked how how I was and my exact response was the following: “It is so hot and air conditioning is expensive and I am overwhelmed and I miss my friends and I miss living with Leesh and Reen and sometimes I have to take two showers a day because I sweat so much.”
Melodramatic much?
 I half expected Matt to encourage me to hop on a plane back home (I wasn’t planning on it and still am not) because sometimes he teases me about it. Instead, his response was quoting scripture and then sweetly telling me how I cannot leave what God has called me to (he then asked me to read his 10 page paper for school, but that’s neither here nor there). Just like that God reminded me He has brought me here. And that is enough for me.
Quite honestly though, I usually do not understand why I am here. Let’s face it, there are about a million more qualified, educated, well adjusted, and spiritual people out there than me. Ones who are more equipped to do the job I am about to embark on. People who are smarter at the Bible and don’t get as crabby as I can. It makes absolutely no sense.
There are many things to be afraid of right now or reasons to be discouraged. For me? I am afraid of this new project I am leading. What if it fails? What if I fail? Not only project stuff, but bigger picture stuff too, actually, even more so. The heaviness of this country can be a load to carry at times. Children are being raped as I type this and as you read it. How can anyone really reconcile that?
BUT (what a glorious word). Jesus says this: “Take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
And just like that… apricity (the warmth of the sun in winter).
That truth ejects any discouragement or fears because, really, He’s got to do the heavy lifting, not me. What a relief. He’s totally got it. And for me? I get to receive the good news and be a partner in delivering it.
“Off again into the big wide world, with a fireplace heart and bouquets of good news to share” -B.L.

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Sit A Spell/Sit and Spill

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Brittany and Brendan are coming tonight to spend the rest of the week with us!  Yay for Spring Break! Happy mama!!!

I’ve been working on the back yard and getting some new furniture to make it truly feel like an extension of our house. Hopefully, cozy and inviting.  We already use this area so much and hope that added seating will help us to entertain out here even more as the evenings get warmer.

But there is so much more to extending a home to others than just adding some furniture and decor pieces.  If my heart isn’t in the right place, if every chair and pillow and candle isn’t saturated with love, then it means nothing.  It all becomes just a pretty veneer of hollowness.  A cold shell with no depth or warmth.

So I dedicate this space all over again as a place where God’s love can be experienced through a listening ear, a shared laugh, a heartfelt prayer.  Where communication will be reciprocal and schedules will be forgotten.  A place where confidences are kept and bonds are formed.  Words can be many or few in the safe environment of tranquility. Dreams can sprout wings when a person is truly heard and accepted. Ideas grow when bounced between friends.

I hope that cushions get broken in and pillows get stained.  I hope that candles burn down to nubbins and that my rugs show wear and tear from extensive use.  I want this place to reflect that love has lived and thrived here.  That feet have been put up and hearts have been put to rest for at least just a little while.

And I promise you, that every time you come and sit here with me, Jesus will join us, smiling from ear to ear…

(Brittany and Brendan, can’t wait for you guys to get here and try it out!!!)

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 - If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecyand can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Matthew 18:20 - For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

 

 

 

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Dancing Hands

Last weekend my friend Abdul came to church with us for the first time. Being one of his first times in a non-muslim worship setting, he was taking everything in and loving every minute of it.  The music, the message, the friendly people.  And then he said something to me that I didn’t understand at first, and not just because of his broken English.  “I like your dancing.”

This was funny for two reasons.  First, because there was no dancing going on in the service.  Second, because if I HAD been dancing, he, or anyone else for that matter, would NOT have liked it. :-)

Then I realized what he meant.  My hands.  When I sing, as when I talk, my hands have a language of their own. And when my arms were raised in worship and my hands were doing their thing up there in the sky, he thought it looked like dancing.

I couldn’t help but smile. Dancing hands.  I like it.

The other night at dinner, my husband Mark was telling a story that he was excited about, his hands flying around like caged birds longing to be free. Passionate about his subject of conversation.  Abby and I joked that none of us could complete a full sentence with our hands tied behind our backs.   It’s how we communicate in our family.

As my friend Laurie put it the other day,”Our hands are a reflection of our soul, they show our emotions and emphasize our words and feelings.”  Well said, Laurie.  I couldn’t agree more.

On my walk this morning, I noticed someone else’s dancing hands.  God’s.  Creation the greatest physical evidence of His dancing hands.

As Laurie said, creation “emphasizes (His) words”.  He wasn’t content with just telling us He loved us.  He SHOWED us.  He expressed His love to us through thousands of different shaped and colored flowers, each with their own unique fragrance.  Trees offering shade and beauty to our landscapes.  Rolling hills, chirping birds, fluffy clouds.  All for our pleasure and His glory.  I can only imagine His hands at work painting, molding, whittling, crafting each intricate piece of nature.

But creation was only the beginning of the dance of His hands.  His love would require more than just beauty extended to us.  His hands would end up expressing His love in a much greater way.

Those dancing hands that created and healed and touched and comforted would carry a huge cross uphill,  bloodied, blistered and splintered.  They would be stretched across that wooden crossbar and ultimately stilled by spikes that would violently tear into their flesh. And with a last tortured breath, those hands would go limp and lifeless.

The enemy no doubt laughed that day, sure that he had stopped God’s dancing hands forever.  Sure that death was the end.

What he didn’t realize was that in the silence of three days in a grave, God was very much alive, preparing for the greatest dance of all.  A resurrection where the only sign of death would be in the scars on those eternally dancing hands.  Hands that now and forevermore offer life and love like nothing else.

Let’s go into this day thankful for those Hands of love and life and watching for signs of dancing in and all around us.  Because His hands are ALWAYS at work, ALWAYS moving, ALWAYS dancing.  Just you watch…

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 

Psalm 19:1 - The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Isaiah 64:8 - Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.

 

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Beautiful Unseen

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It only took a simple song this morning

To bring knees to the floor and hands to the sky

Tears falling from a face raised

Just a song

A reminder

A necessary pause from the inescapable noise and frantic pace of a normal day

Yahweh…

The name so sacred

So holy

That once caused hearts to tremble and lips to refuse to repeat it

The sound of a breath

The Breath of Life itself

With a song, the name once again

Twists my heart

Turns it inside out

Wringing every bit of praise from its deepest places

Yahweh…

Ancient One

“I Am Who I Am”

Forever present, unchanging in love and power, mercy and grace

Forgive me

Forgive us

When we forget

When we struggle against the worship of the beautiful Unseen

When our full ears can’t hear the cadence of Your whisper

When our eyes fail to take in the undeniable glory of every day miracles

When our busy hands distract us from Your hands at work

Yahweh…

I cannot say it without being changed

In perspective

In reverence

My life and breath and meaning

My hope and purpose and motivation

My God

My Father

My Savior

My Friend

My (can I even bear the words?) Groom

My Everything

Yahweh…

Bend my knees and lift my hands

Capture me with Your vastness

Focus my eyes on the glorious invisible

And my ears on Your still, small voice

And please, oh please

Let me never be the same…

Revelation 1:8 - “I am the Alpha and the Omega–the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come–the Almighty One.”

1 Corinthians 8:6 - But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.

Psalm 83:18 - Then they will learn that you alone are called the LORD, that you alone are the Most High, supreme over all the earth.

 

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Daddy’s Song

Oh, how I love this…

The widest, dopiest smile was plastered to my face when I watched this.  So many reasons, I can’t even name them all.  Precious beyond words in every little way.

But I couldn’t help thinking that this is the position I want to be in in my relationship with Jesus. This little girl clearly spends time singing this song with her beloved daddy.  Memorizing the words he has taught her by mere repetition.  They have practiced this song over and over, just in their daily routine of life.  I have no doubt there are many other songs that mark their repertoire.  All a symbol of their close relationship. A natural overflow of their undeniable bond.

She listens to the timing and direction of her father on the little pink guitar.  And every so often she stops to ask, “What was that?” (I read that the reason they began singing this song at this particular time was because she was sure she heard fireworks and couldn’t sleep, so daddy invited her to join him in the song to calm her little heart.) She doesn’t panic, but asks the honest question when she feels afraid. Her father is right there with her, bringing her back to the song in both of their hearts.

Admittedly, she does get a little bossy with him a couple of times, trying to direct the song herself.  Forgetting that he is the one who taught her the lyrics, the tune, the cadence. But within that same free-spirited little heart is the beauty of childlike love, trust and deep devotion.  She loves her daddy. She is reflecting her daddy through her song, her ability (great pitch!) and in the expressions that mimic his own.

A true love story.

That’s what I want to look like.  I want to be in such close proximity to my Jesus that His songs have become my own.  Memorized to my core.  Sung at the top of my lungs.  In unison and harmony with Him.

I want to follow the direction of His “guitar” in my life.  To trust His timing, His lyrics, His melody.

When I don’t understand, when I’m afraid I hear “fireworks” and fear sets in, I want to stop and ask the question and listen for His answer that comes by way of His song in my ear, inviting me back into that place of complete trust, regardless of the outside circumstances and noise. I want to remember that He wrote the song and sweetly invites me to join Him in singing it.

A free-spirit who is truly free in her childlike love, trust and deep devotion…

1 John 3:1 – How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 

Romans 8:15-16 – For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

2 Corinthians 3:18 - Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. – The Message

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Crossing The Yellow Line

A single yellow line, sometimes dotted, sometimes solid, separates the coming and the going.

Dashes and parallel boundaries comprised of nothing but paint on asphalt, keep people on their own sides.  To avoid collisions. To protect. To keep order.

People pass each other in cars, completely unaware of what is going on on the other side of that imaginary wall of protection.  You go this way and I’ll go that.  So much safer that way.

Which works well, at least most of the time, when we’re talking about streets and modes of transportation.

But how often do we stay on our own side of the bright yellow line when it comes to socio-economic status or personality preferences and similarities?  How often do we avoid the other side of the line to stay within the comfort of our own guarded and well-preserved box of experience?  To stay safe.  To avoid collision of two different worlds.

I am speaking to myself first and foremost here.  It’s too easy, too natural, for me to continue to get caught up in the busyness of my own familiar world and to go on forgetting the forgotten.  To not listen to those whose voices are silent.  To ignore those whose lives or thinking or  way of doing things is different than mine.

I would rather keep my eyes on my own side of the road, my own side of the tracks, to keep a possible collision at bay.  Collisions can be painful and messy and extremely inconvenient.  They might slow me down.  They might change my perspective a bit.  They will definitely require extra time, attention and effort.

But what if I went from driving down my road of life, mindlessly staring at my own side of the yellow line, to deliberately looking to the left and right as I go to see opportunities and people that aren’t in my normal line of vision?  What if I stopped along the way to help those I haven’t noticed before, to talk with those I’d never heard before and to reach out to those with silent cries?

What if the collision of two worlds didn’t scare me, but thrilled me?  What if I realized that the only thing standing between me and another person outside of my normal “box” is just an imaginary yellow line?  An invisible wall constructed by my own fear.

I want to walk down the road today with at least one toe stepping over that line of separation.  I want to push past my own comfort and preference and truly live like Jesus did.  Free from my carefully constructed lane of protection.  Hands and feet and heart ready for any given opportunity with those just off my beaten path.  Eyes and ears wide open.

To go from yellow lines to colors still undiscovered…

Matthew 9:35 - Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

Luke 8:43-48 - And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

Luke 15:2 - But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Luke 19:10 - For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

Matthew 10:42 - And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.

Matthew 25:40 - “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

 

 

 

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Ugly Thankfulness

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(Dedicated to my wonderful team – Jeremiah, Joey, Olivia, Stephanie, Lexi, Allie, Lauren, Kelsey, Erin – thanks for inviting me to a life-changing week.  I will never forget our time together and the impact you made on the lives of others.  Jesus smiles, not just for what you did this past week, but for everything you will do and say and think towards those who need Him from this day forward.  I love you all!)

You can’t spend a week on Skid Row and not come away thankful.

Thankful for new friendships formed and safe travels.  Thankful for loving family and friends that await your return.  Thankful for a roof over your head and clothes on your back.  Inside plumbing and a comfortable bed.

All the prayers that I asked you to pray were answered – for new relationships to be formed, for safe travels, for opportunities to share God’s love and for Jesus to stretch us beyond our comfort zones.  I am thankful for answers that far exceeded my humble requests.

But there is burrowed in me, in that deepest place that is my heart and soul, a thankfulness for so many other things.

I am thankful for the stench of urine that burned at our nostrils and greeted us each morning as we climbed out of our red shiny mini vans.  The stench that reminded us of where we were and what we were there to do.

I am thankful for the filth that offended our sheltered eyes, littering the uneven sidewalks where these people sat and slept and ate and relieved themselves.  A reminder that every day they awake to take one more breath is a miracle.

I am thankful for the things we witnessed that shattered the bubble of naiveté – the selling of things that shouldn’t be bought.  The selling of bodies that shouldn’t be sold. A shock to the system that reminded us all that there is, indeed, deep darkness in this world.

I am thankful for the story of a small, homeless child who sat outside the mission, watching adults come in one by one to receive blankets and hats and food, patiently waiting for nothing more than a heartfelt hug.  Tears streaming down her face in the arms of a warm embrace.  A reminder that every act of love is necessary and life-giving.

I am thankful for the dirt that clung to our faces and hands at the end of every day.  A very physical reminder of a very spiritual battle.

I am thankful for an injured foot and the pain and frustration of trying to navigate with crutches on broken concrete.  The tiniest glimpse into the daily struggle of those confined to a wheelchair or wrestling with untreated injuries and illnesses.

I am thankful for the sweet heart behind the glaucoma filled eyes.   The elderly man who held my hand and asked me to talk more about Jesus with him.

I am thankful for the ugly sound of sirens blaring and police lights flashing, interrupting our conversations and piercing our ears.  A loud reminder of the reality of a life lived on the streets.

I am thankful for a hot and crowded mission kitchen that feeds two hundred people every day.  It brought the realization that it takes so many hands, so much love and time and effort, to do the same thing differently every 24 hours.

I am thankful for the stinging tears in a Pleasanton teenager’s eyes, the lump in my own throat, that comes with the knowledge that there is so much to be done for these lost souls.  So much more than we could ever accomplish on our own.  A reminder that we can offer fully what God has gifted us with and trust Him to use others to do the same.

Dirty streets. Broken people.  Shattered lives.  Profound darkness.

And a minuscule amount of understanding that Jesus did this.  On this earth.  For us.

We left Pleasanton, but He left heaven.

He walked on our dirty streets.  Repaired our brokenness.  Healed our sickness.  Felt our pain.  Experienced our darkness.

But where we could do so little on Skid Row, He did everything on the cross.

Jesus is our answer.  Jesus is their answer.

And whether we venture to Skid Row or down our own tame streets, there are people hurting, dying all around us.

I am thankful for the in-my-face reminder this past week.  The reminder that whether a person is rich or poor, educated or unschooled, powerful or lowly, we all have one thing in common.

The need for a Savior that forgives and restores.  Who offers grace and true life.

I am thankful that a week on the streets will not let me forget…

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 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ” Matthew 25:40

 

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Home!

I’m home!  Exhausted, yet strangely refreshed and invigorated. Amazed and compelled. Thankful and yearning. And miraculously enough, all in one (more or less) piece!  Can’t wait to share what God did this past week.  After some more reflecting and a good night’s sleep in my own wonderful bed :-).  Thanks for your prayers.  They were more than answered. :-)

J

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Down and Out

Heading out for dinner and a “sleepover” at some friends of ours…Tomorrow I head to Skid Row in L.A. with the youth group.  Crazy times and wonderful Jesus!  Too much to write now, but if I am absent for about the next 6 days, you will understand that I will have many stories to share when I get back.  Stories of riches shared in poverty.  Beauty extended to broken.  Lessons learned from those with so little who can teach us so much.  Pray for me as I am driving one of the vans (yes, that is just as scary as you think it is with my driving skills!) that there will be times of great conversations, new relationships and opportunities to stretch out of our comfort zone to do what Jesus asks of us.

Until then….Hugs!!!!

 

J

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